When our A/C went out two Sundays ago, my first reaction was panic. We live in the desert where we have been experiencing triple digit temperatures and we have esteemed air conditioning as one of the dire necessities of life. So when our central air went out last weekend, my first thought was that we had to call the repair people first thing Monday morning and get it fixed ASAP to avoid extreme suffering.
By Sunday night, however, I began singing a different tune. Yes, it was hotter than h*** as we had a high of 104 that day and sweated a lot more than we would have liked. But the point was that we had survived it, and without any real harm to ourselves except for discomfort. I started fantasizing of the money that could be saved by going the rest of the summer without it.
I’ve also been thinking of how often we forget what we really could live without. We grew up in Hawaii where the average middle-class home doesn’t have air conditioning and many don’t even have insulation. I have memories of hot, humid summers when the entire house was unbearably hot and sweating was a normal part of life. In the winters (and trust me, it does get cold there) I would go to bed wearing at least 2 layers (one of which was sweatshirt and sweatpants), socks and occasionally a cap, under 3 layers of blankets.
But since moving to California in 2003, A/C has become a regular and expected part of life, and we got so used to the luxury that we would turn it on as soon as we felt hot. Of course, being the tropical beasts that we are, 82°-83° keep us sufficiently cool and happy.
So, while it has still been hot (we’ve still had highs in the 100°s), it has been begun getting a little cooler, so we have decided to postpone the A/C repair in the interest of saving and as a matter of discipline. We consider ourselves lucky that our A/C graciously waited until the latter part of summer to go on vacation.
Over this past week, we have learned a few things about how to keep cool without the A/C, but most importantly, that we have been overusing it by not taking advantage of cooler nighttime temperatures. In the past couple of months, we have sometimes kept the A/C on auto 24/7. Even though we set the thermostat around 82°-83°, the A/C still came on at night when outside temperatures were lower because the house was hot from being closed up. So here are a few tips for lowering and saving money on air conditioning use.
Tips for Going Without and/or Saving on Air Conditioning
- Turn on fans to keep the air circulating.
- Set ceiling fans to turn clockwise (counter-clockwise looking toward it).
- Keep curtains or blinds closed during the day.
- Use light colored curtains to deflect heat.
- Keep windows and doors closed tightly to keep the house cool.
- If there is a breeze or if outside air feels cooler than inside, open the window bringing in the cooler.
- Keep sunny windows closed if there is no breeze.
- In late afternoon, as soon as outside temperatures feel lower than inside temperatures, open all windows and doors.
- In the evening, when it’s cool outdoors but still hot indoors, place fans in front of open windows to draw in the cool air.
- Keep as many windows as possible open during night to take advantage of the cool night air to lower inside temperatures.
- In the morning, close windows as soon as the outside air begins feeling warmer than inside air.
- Limit strenuous physical activity until evening.
- Drink lots of cold water.
- When hot, use a water spritzer to spray yourself. The evaporating water will make you feel cool. (For fun, you can also spritz the water upwards and feel it fall down on you. The coldness can be quite shocking.)
- Tie a wet bandanna around your neck (this is something I do for my dog to prevent overheating and heatstroke during the summer).
- if you work for yourself and set your own schedule, you could take advantage of cooler temperatures to get work done at night as you might enjoy more clarity of mind and get more done without the heat.
What I’ve Learned From My Air Conditioning Breaking
- I’ve been spoiled by having A/C these past few years.
- A/C is a luxury.
- A little deprivation is good for you because it makes you appreciate the most basic things in life such as a cold drink and the slightest breeze.
- A warm breeze is better than none.
- Sweating may be unpleasant but it doesn’t hurt you (it may even be good for you).
Does this mean we’re just going to go indefinitely without our air conditioning? No, of course not, because we will be needing it when next summer rolls around and we start getting 105°-112° temperatures again. We are human after all, and as we work at home, we do need to be able to have a certain degree of comfort in order to fully concentrate and function at full capacity in our work.
On a similar note, our heater also went out last winter and we spent most of the winter without it. Outside temperatures were often in the 20s and 30s, and inside was in the 50s and low 60s. It was also uncomfortable, but we came through none the worse (well, maybe a little fatter because we might have eaten more to stay warm).
We will be getting both the A/C and heater repaired some time this fall, but now we that we’ve been reminded of our ability to do without, we will hopefully start to see lower electric and gas bills in the months and years to come.